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100 species: kbv’s?

The first signs of spring migration are really starting to show! More and more wintering birds are making way for the summer guests. Larger numbers of lapwings and oystercatchers are appearing in the polders, while most greater white-fronted geese have left. I have also seen the first white wagtails of this year, so that’s another one for the local list!

During these weeks, the first leaf warblers usually return from their wintering grounds. Leaf warblers are small, brown passerine birds that look relatively similar, but have unique, distinctive songs. In the Netherlands, this group of warblers is nick-named ‘kbv’s, an abbreviation of ‘kleine bruine vogels’, small brown birds. One of the first specimen to return, is the chiffchaff. And although I have yet to see the first one this year, I have been able to hear multiple birds sings their signature song: a repetitive, one syllable, three tone song.

Another interesting group of migratory birds are gulls. More and more lesser black-backed gulls have reappeared. Properly identifying gulls can be a tricky affair; especially young gulls are notoriously difficult to identify because of their similar appearances. Most adult birds however, can be put to name by some key features.

Location is one of those features. Species like yellow-legged gulls and caspian gulls live almost exclusively near the sea, while lesser black-backed gulls and herring gulls thrive in a variety of locations. Most towns and cities harbor an amount of lesser black-backed and herrings gull, and when seen side by side, two key features can help distinguish between one another.

The herring gull on the left has pink legs, and light gray wings, whereas the lesser black-backed gull has yellow legs, and dark grey wings. Both birds have black wingtips (folded to the tail), which gives the wings of the lesser black-backed gull a overall darker appearance in flight; the herring gull has lighter wings with clearly distinguishable black tips. When in doubt, of for more information, consult a bird field guide.

Although I have not had any luck with photographing chiffchaffs yet, I did manage to grab a shot of something interesting. On one of my rounds through Voorschoten, I spotted a small bird in a patch of reeds. My first thought was ‘probably a moorhen’, but just to be sure, I parked my bike and got my binoculars out. Nope, definitely not a moorhen, this is a water rail! I get my camera out and hide behind a tree, and grab a bunch of shots.

After a couple of seconds, this water rail does what water rails do best: it disappears in the reeds. In the hope it pops up somewhere nearby, I wait for half an hour, looking, but no results.

All in all, two species to add to the list, and a picture of a water rail: not a bad week at all!

Total number of species: 77 / 100

Number of new species: 2

  • Chiffchaff
  • White wagtail